This review’s fairly short, and copied more or less verbatim from my Goodreads review. However, since the book’s barely over 200 pages, there isn’t all that much to say, and I’m working on being more concise rather than writing long, rambly reviews all the time, so I’m going to count that as a good thing.
I’m not sure I realised this was a children’s book when I requested it from NetGalley, so realising that it was threw me off for a moment. The protagonist is eleven, trying to find a missing toy for his younger sister, and in typical eleven-year-old style he doesn’t quite do the cost/benefit analysis an adult might have done in his desperate search to find it.
But maybe that’s just as well, because it leads him to Omnia — effectively intergalactic Amazon on speed. It’s got a mixture of human, alien and robot employees, and Nico finds himself an apprentice there, which somewhat interferes with his original mission. Only one problem, and that’s that nobody is allowed to leave.
Once I’d got over the fact that I was unexpectedly reading a book aimed at a younger audience than I’d anticipated — though I don’t know why I missed that — I was able to settle into the story a bit more. It’s got a suitably escalating plot, as “find toy” becomes “escape Omnia” and then “save Omnia from AI overlord”, though I felt this last element was somewhat rushed, and didn’t feel as convincing as it could have done. Perhaps that reflects Nico’s priorities, but I would have liked it to be introduced earlier in the book so that it could have been developed more. There was also a plot twist that sadly I guessed a mile off, but it didn’t make much of a difference.
The characters were surprisingly well-developed for a reasonably short book, especially within the limitations of the plot. I particularly liked Fubu, an alien with vocal cords ill-adapted to human languages, so he communicates through handwritten notes. Some of the others were only passing acquaintances whose stories had to be deduced from passing hints, but then, it isn’t long, as I said before.
Nico himself is believable in his motivations, as he blames himself for losing his sister’s toy and thinks he has to be the one to get it back. However, he ends up away from his family for months on end, and although he wants to get back, I’d have expected more emotional responses from him. An eleven-year-old is going to miss his family and friends more than a few passing references, isn’t he? I guess it might spoil the light-hearted tone of the adventure if he was too upset, but it didn’t convince me.
My one other complaint would be to do with the writing style, which was simplistic and in places had repetition of words and sentence structures that made it feel clumsy or under edited. However, I then realised that it was a novel in translation, and so these were more likely the translator’s work than the author’s. While it did hinder my enjoyment and I can’t deny it influences my rating of the book, I’m still more moderate in my response because translation is such a hit and miss thing when it comes to writing style, and if this really is aimed at an audience closer in age to the protagonist than me, then it’s no wonder it felt a little simplistic.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Amazon took over more than just our world, this book might give you a glimpse at it. Perhaps not as sophisticated a glimpse as I might have hoped, but I think maybe I had the wrong impression of what book I was about to read, and had unrealistic expectations as a result.